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Should I "Boldly Go" or "Go Boldly"?
by Tim North
Space, the final frontier.
Thus starts the famous voice-over to Star Trek. Quite apart from the 1960s sexism, it raises the burning question that has probably long been gnawing at you: should Captain Kirk have said "to boldly go" or "to go boldly"?
These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.
It's five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds,
to seek out new life and new civilizations,
TO BOLDLY GO where no man has gone before!
To put it in linguistic geek speak: "Are split infinitives really a tool of the devil?" :-)
Just in case the issue hasn't been gnawing at you, let's start with a quick review: what is a split infinitive? Well it's quite simple. An infinitive is a form of a verb (a doing word) that usually) starts with the word "to". For example, "to run", "to go" and "to laugh" are all infinitives.
When we put a another word between "to" and the verb, we're said to have "split" the infinitive. For example: "to unsteadily run", "to boldly go" or "to quietly laugh".
Are these grammatically naughty or not?
Short answer: no.
The traditional "rule" that one should not split infinitives stems from the fact that it is not done in Latin. Purists argue (incorrectly in my opinion) that because Latin doesn't do it, English shouldn't.
In his wonderful book "The Mother Tongue", prolific author Bill Bryson provides the following simple rebuttal:
Nicely said, Bill!
- I can think of two very good reasons for not splitting an infinitive.
- Because you feel that the rules of English ought to conform to the grammatical precepts of a language that died a thousand years ago.
- Because you wish to cling to a pointless affectation of usage that is without the support of any recognized authority of the last 200 years, even at the cost of composing sentences that are ambiguous, inelegant, and patently contorted.
Copyright 2004 © Tim North, http://www.BetterWritingSkills.com
You'll find many more helpful tips like these in Tim North's much applauded range of e-books. FREE SAMPLE CHAPTERS are available, and all books come with a money-back guarantee.
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